Liverpool-Swansea City Verdict: Reds Defense Reaches Bill Shankly-Era Levels

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Liverpool’s old and new leaders carried it to victory over Swansea City and rarefied road heights.

Liverpool beat Swansea City 1-0 in a Premier League game at the Liberty Stadium on Monday. Jordan Henderson scored the game’s only goal, as the Reds earned three points to keep themselves firmly in contention for a successful finish to the 2014-15 Premier League campaign.

Liverpool continued its impressive run of form, earning its fifth straight win and extending its unbeaten streak to 13 league games. The Reds also earned their sixth consecutive road shutout, equaling a club record of defensive prowess set and matched during the reign of legendary manager Bill Shankly.

Liverpool didn’t play its best soccer against Swansea City, but goalkeeper Simon Mignolet thwarted the hosts throughout the first half. The resurgent Mignolet commanded his penalty area and made a series of increasingly impressive saves, which repelled Swansea City’s best efforts during an opening period in which Liverpool disappointed with its play.

The Reds’ revival has given them immense confidence and self-belief, which helped them endure the rocky start. Mignolet embodied the Reds’ improvement since the fall months, as he has done for most of 2015, and his excellence set the stage for Liverpool to compose and assert itself in the second half. Vice-captain Henderson, healthy-again captain Steven Gerrard and manager Brendan Rodgers then made decisive impacts, which turned the tide of the game.

Gerrard returned to action after a month out due to a hamstring injury. Rodgers introduced Gerrard in the 64th minute (around 10 minutes after the Reds began their ascension), and the veteran midfielder helped tighten Liverpool’s control over the game.

But Henderson’s lucky moment in the 68th minute ultimately gave the Reds the edge in the scoreline. As Henderson ran onto Daniel Sturridge’s inventive back-heel pass, Swansea City defender Jordi Amat cleared the ball off his shin and into the goal from 18 yards out.

The intesity and tempo of Liverpool’s play increased as the game progressed. The eight-day break between the Reds’ last game and the Swansea City encounter allowed them to impose their will until the final whistle.

Rodgers’ tactical changes — using Gerrard as a deep-lying midfielder and pushing Henderson forward among them — were his latest in-game masterstrokes. It now would come as shock if Liverpool didn’t outplay its opponent in the second half of any given contest, given Rodgers’ astute tweaks from the sidelines.

Liverpool remains the Premier League’s hottest team. Rodgers said last weekend that the Reds would need 23 points from their last 10 games to secure a top-four finish and qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League. The countdown now is on: Liverpool needs 20 from their last nine games to pull off a modern-day, Premier League miracle.

It only makes sense that the Reds would build their hopes from the back.

Henderson’s deflected goal in LFC-Swansea City (GIF) >>

Fixing LFC defense is Rodgers’ latest test >>

Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@AnfieldLens

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